Brioche Extravaganza (and Lentils)
I decided to do a fun baking project over the long weekend and tried my hand at making brioche. I used the recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking (it's funny--even though I have a better track record with Cook's Illustrated recipes, I'm drawn to the recipes in Dorie's book because the pictures are so pretty. And she's certainly delivered her share of winners). It involved three sticks of butter, and the outcome was delicious (not surprisingly)!
Brioche-making definitely calls for a stand mixer, as it required a lot of mixing. We are lucky enough to have a KitchenAid (thanks, Mom!), so all I had to do was stand at the counter and watch the chunks of softened butter gradually disappear in to the dough. The dough chilled overnight in the fridge before shaping and baking. Brioche dough is such a pleasure to work with--it's dense and satiny, and it rolls out beautifully.
The recipe yields enough dough for two loaves, but I made only one loaf and used the remaining dough to prepare and freeze sticky buns and raisin-almond schnecken (based on the Brioche Raisin Snails recipe in Baking, but using almond cream instead of pastry cream as the filling, as she suggests). I love the sticky bun assembly process--rolling the dough, smearing softened butter over it, sprinkling liberally with cinnamon sugar, rolling it tightly, and--my favorite part--using dental floss to neatly divide the roll into 1-inch rounds of deliciousness. For some reason, I find the floss method so much more enjoyable than using a knife--wiggling the floss under the roll, looping it around, crossing the ends and pulling until the roll is cut. So tidy! Now our freezer is stocked with breakfast pastries ready to be baked on a lazy weekend morning.
We used most of the brioche loaf to make meatloaf sandwiches (Patrick used this Cook's Illustrated recipe, and it turned out really well, though it was time-consuming), topped with melted Monterey Jack and caramelized shallots. Super tasty, but definitely something to enjoy in moderation (with a heap of roasted broccoli on the side).
I made bostock with leftover brioche and almond cream, and Susan, Pearl, and I had a little tea party on Tuesday afternoon. It was a nice treat. (Side note: In my head I pronounce "bostock" with a hearty German accent (bo-shtock!), since that's the language I learned in high school, but I assume it's a French word. I'm not sure how it's actually pronounced. Does anybody know?)
At the opposite end of the healthiness spectrum, we've had two yummy lentil dishes recently. The first was lentil-walnut burgers from The New Moosewood Cookbook. I used rehydrated dried chanterelles for the mushrooms, and I added a little grated Parmesan to the burger mixture. We ate them on little sourdough rolls, topped with ketchup, mayo, and pickle slices. Good stuff! The lentil burgers were a little softer than meat burgers and had a tendency to squish out the sides of the roll with every bite, but I think that could be solved by serving them on a soft hamburger bun. I would definitely make these again.
Our second lentil dish was from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian--lentils cooked with garlic and topped with gingery spinach, fried onions, and feta (instead of the recommended plain yogurt). We had this dish at Tree's sister's house in Seattle a few years ago, and we were really impressed (so impressed that both Tree and I bought copies of World Vegetarian for ourselves soon after--in fact, I think Tree bought hers at Powells right after the Seattle to Portland ride). It's simple and healthy, but so tasty! We ate it with homemade heart-shaped flatbread (recipe from Baking Illustrated) in honor of Valentine's Day.
I made chocolate pudding for dessert, since it's one of Patrick's favorites, and we had all the ingredients on hand. I used the Tartine recipe again, with 1% milk instead of cream and whole milk. Good stuff!